Thursday, March 24, 2022

TMNT Co-Creator Kevin Eastman Talks NECA Haulathon Exclusive, The Last Ronin, and More

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are getting on NECA's first-ever Haulathon event! Haulathon is a four-week series that see NECA releasing brand new, exclusive items at Target stores and on and will be available at Target and in the US and via for international shoppers, with new items going on sale each Friday at 8 a.m. CST. has revealed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles item dropping as part of the Haulathon this Friday, March 18th: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Cartoon) – 7" Scale Action Figure – Cartoon Series 2 – 4 Pack "Style Guide Colors" figure set. You can take a look at the set, which retails for $149.99, below.

To celebrate the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Haulathon release, chatted with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman to talk about the figures. They also got some information on the upcoming final issue of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin (NECA has a figure for that as well). Check out theur conversation, along with promotional images of the figures, below:

(Photo: NECA)

Could you tell me about your involvement with the design and production of these figures? Did you have input into how the figures came out?

Kevin Eastman: Man, it's just been such a wonderful journey and I have to go back to some of the toys that Peter [Laird] and I did when we worked with Playmates and with Fred Wolf Films back in the early days. That was really something, certainly for us as cartoonists, watching our comic books turn into fully animated figures and then to full 3D figures with some of the original toys. And I love the fact that we've been able to be part of that process all the way through. But then handing it off to the incredible and gifted and talented people at NECA who have brought them to life in such a fantastic way that is down to every single detail as we all grew up with them and saw them originally back in some of those original cartoons. So it's really been a joy to be part of the original process and then watch from afar while people, far more skilled than I am, bring it to life in another way, which is just wonderful. And of course, all the little bonuses and extras in the packages are just a hoot and a holler too.

There have been a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. NECA is putting out a lot of very cool ones themselves. What do you think makes these figures stand out?

I think it's all the way it's packaged and the way it's presented and the overall style, that look, as well. I'm standing here looking at it right now as it sits on my studio shelf -- and I'm going to have to get more shelves to make more room for some of this stuff -- but it's all those little extras that are just impossible to find, like the turtle communicators for example, or even things as goofy as the slices, the bits of pizza. Or just the stylization of some of their weapons, giving you the chance to choose a different face for each of the characters, a different expression, the interchangeability if you are brave enough to open them, and I'm very tempted to open them, but I still like the full display of how it sort of laid out in the package.

So I like the uniqueness of it, and being a collector, I still get some of my original GI Joes and other figures and stuff that I had in the earliest of days. So having some of this stuff as inspirations from some of your favorite cartoons in the way that they present it and make the uniqueness of the collectibility of it is something I think is super fun.

I know that you and Peter Larid were both incredibly busy at the time that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, which these figures are based on, was in production. It was the height of Turtlemania. Does looking at these figures bring any particular memories or feelings from those days rushing back to your mind?

Totally. It's still like it replays like a video in my mind as fresh as something I watched yesterday. And that being when we were going through the process and it was very interesting. It was a very, very busy time, but that's because we wanted to be involved in every part of the process, whether it be working with, say, the original writers like David Wise and some of the many other people bringing to life some of these stories into this new iteration of the Turtles as the cartoon show, which then became part of the toy line. But we wanted say and involvement in all the scripts. We had final approval over the look of all the characters, how they were interpreted or new characters were brought into the Turtle universe at that time and have continued to be part of the universe.

So I can sit there and see myself looking at that first prototype of that first toy based on the animated show, and that's exactly what these figures bring back to me. I feel I've reached into my TV screen and pulled out one of the figures right out of the cartoon, because they're just wonderfully exact and right down again to the simplest and the coolest little accessory that's packaged with them. It's torn right off the TV screen into your living room. So that's it. I love it. It brings back a lot of exciting and fun memories of that time.

(Photo: NECA)

You mentioned how you and Peter both wanted the final say on creative decisions for the franchise. You've talked elsewhere, like in The Toys That Made Us episode about the franchise, about how Venus' introduction was the biggest test of that [and now Venus is back]. Do any other major issues stick in your mind? Either one that you and Peter had to put a firm foot down over, or that caused a similar disagreement or discussion between the two of you? Or was Venus really the one?

You know, it really was not really that much. Luckily we, as co-creators of the property and the ideas that we explored, were careful. We continued to maintain a level of respect for each other. Whether it be talking about a story that we were drawing together within the comic series, it was discussed, put on the table, pros and cons, points of view and then we find a middle ground. And that was very similar in a lot of the creative aspects of developing, whether it be some of the work on the movies, to some of the work on the cartoon shows, especially in the early days.

There were certain things that we wanted to see done differently, and nothing that we disagreed particularly on. It was just always reaching for fresh ideas or new ideas or new characters to bring into the cartoon series. We didn't want to be one of those rinse and repeat kind of things like every episode was sort of standardized. And there were times that we felt like it was so we would push hard with some of the creative people that we were working with at Fred Wolf and things to get more creative and bring in some fresh ideas.

But no, nothing in particular. I think Venus was one of those ideas that, if there was going to be a girl turtle, that wasn't the way Peter saw it happening, I felt it was a good idea, you know? Because we've always been attracted to strong female characters, whether it be Sarah Connor or with Ellen Ripley or many, many, many others. But it was just one of those things that was a good idea, but at the wrong time, certainly for him and I, but we got past it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still going strong today. Seth Rogen is working on a new movie. I know you've consulted on some things over the past few years. Are you consulting or at all involved in the Rogen project?

No, that's a good question. And I'm not directly involved in it for sure. It's funny that many things that I've been involved in creatively -- some a lot, some a little -- all stem from the original series that Peter and I created, co-created and built together. And to me, it is looking through these characters and looking through some of those concepts through fresh eyes, if you will, whether it be the evolution and what was built by IDW Turtle Universe that was built there; Nickelodeon's 2012 series, for example, one of my favorites in recent history of just a wonderfully creative and playful environment to tell stories from there. Some of the movies I like a little bit more than some of the others, but once you put your idea or the hands of an auteur, a creator or director, writer, certainly as it stands now where I don't have any say of what could be done or not be done, I've been asked to consult on different things at different times and I give my honest opinion. Whether they use it or not. It's really up to that particular artist.

In Seth Rogan's case, I'm not a big fan of him and his movies and I'm sure his team is given a lot of thought to something that I think he's personally a fan of. Whether he wants my two cents or not, that's totally up to him. But otherwise, I'll be in the theater when it comes out and we'll give my two cents then. But I'm excited. I've enjoyed so many different, I call them Turtle universes because they really are very unique and different varied turtle universes within a multiverse, if you will, which is always exciting, to see what other people see in these characters that Peter and I created almost 40 years ago.

(Photo: NECA)

Lastly, I know I am one of many fans eagerly awaiting the finale of The Last Ronin. I think it's fair to say the series has taken a little longer to come out than anyone was expecting or hoped. I checked before this interview and current the final issue is scheduled to release in April. Can you tell us whether that's a firm date at this point and enlighten us at all on what caused the delays over the past few months?

First and foremost, thanks a million, billion, trillion. It's been such an unexpected response to it. That really was the idea that was based on a concept that Pete and I had created back in 1987, and it came together. Tom [Waltz] and I built it into the story that it's become, and then it was unfortunate, even as it started in the earliest days, that creatively, our team that I brought in initially to help realize the concept didn't quite work out. So we were almost five months behind before it even started. So the slowness to it has all been my fault and uniquely my fault. And they're larger-sized stories like the original Mirage comics, 40 pages each. With the incredible amount of detail, it's almost like directing a movie in that each part of it has a script and a very basic script, but it evolves as I do the layouts. That's how the story comes together, the way it used to back in the earliest days when Pete and I worked together.

So the delays have been solely on my shoulders, but it's been a journey. That's been the toughest story I've told, but the most exciting personally, and satisfying, and we are just literally days away from wrapping up the last couple pages and it is going to press and I know that there's literally people standing by at the printer waiting for the PDF to arrive. Hopefully, the fans will think it's worth the wait. I think it is. This last issue is something that I just could not be more excited about for everybody to see. The way I'm ending it is the way I want to see it end and we'll leave it at that.

But yes, stand by, it is coming. We're days away from being wrapped and I appreciate everybody's patience, and again, I hope the thing is worth the wait when it finally arrives. If not, I'm sure I'll hear about it.

NECA's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Cartoon) – 7" Scale Action Figure – Cartoon Series 2 – 4 Pack "Style Guide Colors" figure set goes sale at Target,, and at 8 a.m. CST on Friday, March 18th.



TMNT's Kevin Eastman Teases Zany New Animated Series, Biz & Buzz

Kevin Eastman discusses his upcoming animated series Biz and Buzz with Simon Bisley and reflects on the finale of TMNT: The Last Ronin.

Currently, in development with the BAFTA-winning Factory studios, Biz and Buzz recreates the friendship between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman and the iconic Heavy Metal artist Simon Bisley in animated form. The show puts the pair of comics creators in a world where their avatars are wannabee rockers who keep finding themselves in ridiculous circumstances. Stemming from their real-life friendship, the series has been a fresh source of laughs for Eastman, who also recently finished his work on the epic conclusion to the TMNT saga with TMNT: The Last Ronin.

During an exclusive interview with CBR, Eastman delved into his upcoming animated series Biz and Buzz and what it's like to see the iconic Bisley come to life in animated form. He also spoke about what it means to him as a creator to see TMNT: The Last Ronin come to a close over thirty years after first conceiving of the story with Peter Laird.

CBR: So much of Biz and Buzz seems to come from the relationship you share with Simon Bisley. What was that like to bring this to life in this kind of form?

Kevin Eastman: It was so much fun. To be honest, the creation of it was just one of those things that was very organic and very natural. Simon and I worked a lot together, and we were actually traveling to work on a video game in Japan. I just had this feeling. I said, "This could be the last big adventure of Biz and Buzz because they'd probably bring back public beheading and something. We'd embarrass ourselves, and our country, and it would be all over for us." Simon did this absolutely awesome doodle on the plane of Biz and Buzz. Everything from there was, "Well, what would Biz and Buzz do next?" It wrote itself, as Simon and I would start talking.

The concept of Biz and Buzz, [it's actually us coupled] with some of my favorite shows. I always loved Laurel and Hardy because they seemed very Biz and Buzz. They would go in for a work gig to move a piano, and they end up in a spaceship to the moon. It'd be some bizarrely nutty kind of place that they would end up. That would be a natural fit for Biz and Buzz, that they would be sent to do some menial task... They'd do their best at the worst jobs possible. They were always given the lowest, dirtiest jobs that nobody else wanted, and they would go in there like, "Yeah, we're going to do our best job ever," and then it would just completely go awry, which would probably be exactly what Simon Bisley and I would do. So that kind of coupled with one of my favorite TV shows of all time, The Young Ones -- I just love the mantic nuttiness of that whole concept.

You put Laurel and Hardy [and] The Young Ones in a setting where you get this whole group of characters, these lovable misfits that still live in this temporary halfway house and are given temporary jobs to fulfill the time and need and stuff. It centers around Biz and Buzz and those characters and their existence to pay rent and get the band back together. They don't want to be Bono and The Edge, they want to be the drummer and the bassist. They want to be the best backup band in the world, but the instruments are in the pawnshop. That was inspired because Bisley is actually a drummer and he's quite good at it. It's super manic, fun stories, with enough edge that we don't get kicked off TV, I think. We wanted to create a great foundation to tell some pretty zany stories.

I love the idea of these two wannabe rockers, who don't want to be the rockstars who are upfront, doing all the partying. Especially with Simon Bisley being a drummer, which I can't stop thinking about now.

Totally. He's crazy. That's the fun of Simon. Even when the incredible team at Factory Create, Phil Chalk and the designers... When they started breaking down the actual look of these characters, one of the things I felt they captured perfectly was Simon Bisley. I think if we get him to focus around his ADHD-isms -- his manic, lovely, creative, ADHD-isms -- we should try to get him to do the voice of the character. When it gets to the point where it goes into a writer's room, I think we just need to bring in Simon dressed like Hannibal Lecter. We bring him in and take that off, and then we can unleash him on the unsuspecting writers.

We've been having a lot of fun. My friend Robert Mandel and some of the original guys have been pulling the story together. I've written probably ideas for about 25, 30 different episodes. We're building out the world... I've already pretty much drawn everything, all the sets and all the designs from the halfway house, the location, the different places where some of the adventures would take place, a lot of the secondary characters that you find in the halfway house. One of their favorite partners in crime is a young lady named Misty Stormcloud, who owns the comic book store that also sells weed.

Factory Studios is helping bring the series to life. What has it been like to work with them on the project?

Dude, I don't think we could have stopped them if we tried. When Phil and when the gang over there saw the proposal, they really fell in love with it. From the first conversation, you could tell that they got it. The passion was there. You could see that little twinkle in their eye with like, "We know we can have a lot of fun with this." So when they went in, they went all in. They've been having a lot of fun, and that's what's beautiful about that part of the creation process.

To see Simon and I physically drawing it but then trying to bring it to life, certainly in 3D... The technological side of what they're doing, what they bring with their wonderful claymation look and feel to it, it's just been wonderful how excited they have been and what they brought to the table and how much it's evolved, as well as their commitment to try to keep it very much like the original drawing. They felt like that's what drew them to the characters in the first place. They still really wanted to embrace that and bring that to life -- and man, have they. I'm pretty tickled. I'm pretty thrilled at what they've done, and it definitely shows that they're having fun doing it.

Shifting gears slightly, I do want to bring up TMNT: Last Ronin. As someone who grew up with these characters, this is exactly the kind of story we've been wanting to see for them.

You hit the nail on the head, man. That was really... When I think back, a lot of the inspiration was Turtles Issue #1, which is really the beginning of the story obviously. That was the origin story at the beginning. That was a beginning, middle, and end, with the door open to go other places. When [TMNT co-creator Peter Laird] and I were looking further down the road, going back to an outline we wrote in 1987... that became Last Ronin. Tom Waltz and I adapted it into Last Ronin. We left 30 years down the road and then said, "This is where the characters would end," if we were so lucky to be working for 30 years on our characters.

When Tom Waltz and I worked through the first 100 issues at IDW, the incredible turtle universe we built over there, we were looking like, "Well, where do we go from here?" I pulled out this story that Pete and I wrote, and I said, "How about we do this? This is kind of like a Dark Knight Returns sort of final Turtles story, but the door's open to go other places depending on if people don't hate us after they see the ending."  Nickelodeon and IDW and everybody have been so supportive because I wanted the books to be 40 pages like the original ones that Peter and I did -- larger in format, larger in page count.

I got to pick [an] artist like the Escorza brothers to bring it to life. They just did an amazing job, [as did] Ben Bishop for the flashback sequences. We had this amazing colorist, Luis Antonio Delgado. It was sort of a perfect storm of coolness to bring it to life. Then we just ran late on everything. There was so much [that] went into it, I swear to goodness. It's been 32 years in the making, but the last three years I've been just all hands on deck. It's been quite a process -- very exciting but very exhausting [and] worth it to the end. Tom and I are really proud of the ending. We're proud of the series in general.

Was Mikey always going to be the last turtle standing?

Yes, he was. [In] the first drawing of the first Turtle, even before he was named Michelangelo, he had a mask on, he had nunchucks strapped to his arms. Mikey was kind of the firstborn, so it was never going to be any other Turtle. I wanted the firstborn to be, in my mind, the Last Ronin. Also as a storytelling device, the [format] that everybody knows Michelangelo from, which is mainly the cartoon series, he's kind of the funny guy, the humorous guy, the more laid-back one. As a storytelling device, it's a much further way to go... to wrap up everything that had been set up in Issue #1, and this final issue basically 30 years later.

I figured that, if you look at every version of the Turtles, it's all been based around the same elements, everything that Peter and I set up in Issue #1. Whether it's the cartoon show or the movies or the different iterations of the characters, it's all been built around that. This was my mission, the original concept that Tom and I adapted by Peter and I was to address that and answer that. So, here's your ending and it's done. The door's not closed, but it's got finality and it is an ending.

What does it mean to you as a creator that you've not only gotten to see something you co-created grow across the last thirty years but you also have the chance to put your own final word on it?

The first word that comes to mind is humbling, to be honest. Both Peter and I, we had this crazy dream to be following in the footsteps of Jack Kirby and Frank Miller and people that inspired us to work back then. To have not only one of your creations allow you to have that living to draw comic books... I mean, I was drawing before I came to chat with you, but I'm still drawing at the age of 60. I'm still drawing comics every day, so it really is a dream come true and has been a dream come true.

Then to have it work initially, as it did as a concept, not only in comic books and then cartoons and toys and movies domestically and then globally... Back in the early days, that's crazy. It just never should have happened. Then, to have it become generational is even more insane. I feel like we've been welcomed into a club of some of the Batmans and the Supermans and the Captain Americas -- the heroes that inspired us. We're sort of 30, almost 40 years in, and we're still finding fans that are willing to give me some money to draw Turtles. Thank you. It's been a spectacular gift. It's a dream come true for me personally... It's all your fault, thank you.

Biz and Buzz is currently in development.


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Originally published: March 16, 2022.

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